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Cablevision, YES Network Reach Deal

April 1, 2003 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Cablevision and the YES Network struck a deal Monday to bring New York Yankees games to the cable system’s 3 million subscribers.

The deal was reached less than two hours before the Yankees opened their 2003 season in Toronto against the Blue Jays _ a game televised by YES.

``The deal is good for each of the businesses involved, good for consumers and good for Yankees fans, who will again be able to watch their team on television,″ state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said in a statement.

For Cablevision customers, the deal averted the prospect of a second consecutive season without the vast majority of Yankee games. All but two of the Yankees’ first 51 games in 2003 are scheduled to air on YES.

``This was a long and difficult negotiation, and we are extremely grateful to our customers for sticking with us as we fought to reach an agreement that preserved the ability of Cablevision customers to choose whether or not to receive the YES Network,″ Cablevision said in a statement.

YES did not immediately comment on the deal.

When YES went on the air last year, it insisted on being offered as a basic cable channel _ and 35 regional cable companies serving 5 million customers agreed to the request. Cablevision wanted customers to pay extra for the service.

The two sides struck a temporary deal March 12, agreeing to keep negotiating and allowing Cablevision subscribers to pay $1.95 per month for YES in the meantime.

Cablevision and YES agreed at the time to go to arbitration if they had no permanent deal by April 1, 2004.

But the bitter dispute flared again Friday when the two sides walked away from the temporary agreement, saying it was doubtful a deal could be done by opening day.

YES is controlled by YankeeNets, the sports media company that owns the Yankees, the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils. The network has exclusive rights to most Yankee games.

Last season’s dispute cost the YES Network more than $60 million in subscriber fees and tens of millions more in advertising. Cablevision lost 39,400 subscribers last year.

Cablevision owns Madison Square Garden, the MSG Network and the New York Knicks and Rangers. The Yankees appeared on MSG for 13 seasons before 2002.